LAHORE – The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on Tuesday told the Lahore High Court that the Haj quota of more than 3,700 pilgrims had been retrieved from the defaulter tour operators and 62 more private tour operators had been found tax defaulters while scrutiny of another 105 was in progress.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial was hearing several contempt of court petitions against Ministry of Religious Affairs. The court regretted that even Rs100 income tax payer tour operator was issued clearance certificates and allocated Haj quota. The court directed the ministry to raise the figure to 5,000 and allocate the same among the eligible tour operators.

“It appears that the ministry and federal board of revenue have been staying aloof from the real issues of Haj quota,” the chief justice observed.

The judge also directed the ministry to evolve a policy which could ensure allocation of quota on merit and discourage cartelisation of tour operators. The judge remarked that because of flaws in tax collection system, big fishes remained unhurt and commoners were caught.

The judge adjourned further hearing on the contempt petitions till August 6 and directed the ministry and the FBR to come up with progress report.

Some newly registered tour operators had filed the contempt petitions through Advocate Azhar Siddique and pointed out discrimination on the part of the ministry in awarding Haj quota. They had submitted that the court in its earlier order had directed the ministry to also allocate Haj quota to the new tour operators.

The petitioners submitted that the court had ordered that only those operators should be awarded quota who met the criteria given in paragraph 19 of the Haj Policy 2012. But the ministry ignored the order and awarded quota to the previously registered operators only, the petitioners said and requested the court to initiate contempt proceedings against the officials of ministry.

The chief justice also issued notice to the ministry until August 2 on another petition challenging the allocation of quota among sister-concern and family companies. The petitioner pointed out that these companies were registered in the names of family members.